Ottery StCatchpole's Reviews > Anya's Ghost

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
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's review
Jan 05, 2012

really liked it
Read in December, 2011

** spoiler alert ** So I checked this book out because quite honestly, I was fiending more Jen Wang, and the art looked similar. That said, the stories have nothing in common, Anya's Ghost with Koko be good, but that isn't either a good thing or a bad thing.
The Neil Gaiman blurb on the cover also helped pushed this book to the top of my reading pile, and it is a big pile where comics are concerned. That said, I love graphic novels over monthly comics because it is nice to sit down all at once and be able to read a whole story from beginning to end without months of waiting between chapters. Especially when stories take 50 issues to resolve such as DC's new JLA which I've since dropped. I love you Jim Lee but Mr. Johns cannot write a compelling story piecemeal. He just cannot. I will see how it all works out in the trade, the story may read better once its collected but at the rate it is coming out it is slow paced, a ridiculous 'origin' tale, and it introduces characters at an absurdly drawn out pace leaving me to wonder if the writer even knows where he is going.
But this review is not about DC's JLA it is about Anya's Ghost. Of which I will say, nothing in Ms. Brosgol's narrative seems throwaway. This is a nice departure from a lot of 'floppy' comics which in the interest of selling a lot draw out stories needlessly adding a lot of filler which in more capable hands might actually lay out back story or develop characters as is done in Anya's Ghost.
Let me begin by saying the artwork is gorgeous. Beautiful flowing lines, again a very cartoony style but I love that and it doesn't detract at all from the story. If I had one criticism about the art it would have to be the coloring. The story is very monochromatic, it isn't exactly black and white, I swear I see blues there but there are not many different shades of that grayish blue. It does help with the tone of the story as the narrative reaches its climax but all around it just weighs the book down a little, making the whole comic, even the happier moments, seem depressingly monotone and not at all different from one of Anya's bad days. It seems a little dreary. But again the art itself is beautiful to look at. Vera Brosgol does a very good job of giving her characters their own looks and quirks which translate well to the page. The character designs are unique and alive and very cute.
And while I have to admit that at first the character of Anya seemed to me a little ... well vapid and self involved -- but what are you supposed to expect from a realistic adolescent protagonist? -- I did come to like her character later in the story and Anya does grow and mature by the story's end. A caveat, I suppose my not initially liking her character might have something to do with me reading so many young adult adventure novels. In those stories the heroes are usually plucky young boys or girls who are flawless in their desire to be selfless and save the world. In this regard, Anya's personality is more reflective of how real adolescents are, and it isn't long before we realize that her 'shame' at not being completely American, and her worries about her looks, and the fact that she falls for the obvious 'dream' boy and not the boy her mother would like, aren't just flaws but these are the same dilemmas facing teenagers always, self-image, issues of self-confidence, and for immigrants the issue of being true to your heritage or assimilating completely into modern American culture.
Sounds heady right? But that's not mainly what the story is about, which is why its brilliant, because while the story deals with these things it isn't the core story, nor is any of that laid out as heavy handedly as in my critique. Anya's Ghost is a ghost story, which surprised me, because while I was expecting something of the supernatural I didn't expect it to be a ghost story in the classical sense, where the ghost is actually a menace to the protagonist.
I have to say, by the third part of the story, I could not put the book down wondering what would happen next as a seemingly innocent ghost story turned into horror. A truly brilliant tale, I would recommend to lovers of classical horror or ghost tales and good comics. Definitely I will keep watching for more of Ms. Brosgol's work.
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